The CIO’s Role In Business Transformation

At our recent CIO Forum in D.C., I had a number of conversations with clients who either had gone through or were going through a business transformation. From our talks, one theme jumped out at me — most CIOs will either lead some part of this transformation or get run over by it. From their perspective, there was no middle ground. To paraphrase one CIO, “There’s no way you can just go along for the ride and not get hurt.”

 A little data first. In a survey Forrester performed for Tata Consultancy Services, approximately 30% of those surveyed responded that the CIO was the most important senior leader in driving or supporting a business transformation; CIOs were rated highest — even above CEOs! With about a third of the sample coming from IT, the numbers were slightly skewed, but follow-up interviews with both business and IT people confirmed the results. To paraphrase the leader of IT strategy from one meeting, “Once past the vision phase, 80% of the work falls to the CIO.”

So why is the CIO asked to do so much in what is essentially a business initiative?

Let’s use KPMG’s Value Delivery Framework to illustrate. In it are five stages of a business transformation — discovery, strategy, road map, implementation, and monitoring — and a number of activities such as program management that span the stages. Of the five stages, implementation requires the greatest effort. From talking with those who have been through it, the greatest implementation challenges are in data, enterprise process redesign, project management, and organizational change management. And for at least the first three areas, IT is the group that is required to commit the most resources to these areas because IT has the greatest depth of experience.

It's apparent that one way or another, CIOs will be involved in business transformations. So, what did people recommend to improve this involvement? First, get involved in defining the overall strategy even if it’s no more than identifying the high-risk areas that will derail a transformation. Second, show people what’s possible through the experience of other companies and the problems they had getting there. And finally, take ownership of the technical areas that are most problematic. If it’s data, take on the creation of the data model and data strategy. And I’ll add a fourth recommendation of my own. Exploit the areas where the knowledge of business leaders is weakest. Business process redesign across business units, behavioral change management, data, and other areas are typically weak spots for businesspeople. If you know these areas, step in and provide guidance to the rest of the organization.

If you’d like to learn more about the CIO’s role in business transformation, join my session at CIO Forum EMEA (June 10-11 in London). If you’d like to share your own experiences, respond to this blog, or contact me directly.


No new Chiefs -- but CIOs must step up

Whole-heartedly agree! And, the public sector in particular needs to heed the call. We've seen a proliferation of "chiefs" within public sector organizations, namely Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Digital Officers, and now Chief Data Officers. At the same time, however, the role of CIO (the traditional information one) has gained a new strategic place at the cabinet level.

As I put it in my "Too many chiefs?" blog: If a CIO is truly empowered to guide the use of technology and not just its maintenance, the organization likely doesn’t need another Chief. If not, maybe the organization needs a new CIO who can take on that more strategic role.

Looking forward to the EMEA Forum.

Too many chiefs, not enough ....

Well, you know the rest.

Jennifer, nice blog on the seductive power of adding "Chiefs" to solve a problem

Creating a chief of something can help as long as processes, measurements, deliverables are all in line with the role. However, similar to what you're saying, more often than not I've seen this tactic fragment responsibilities and create conflicts that didn't exist before.

Where do HR Leaders fit in?

I would be interested to see some more of the survey data.

If a lot of the work in a transformation project falls to IT, the IT work is about tools and data. The reason transformations fail are the people. Who is managing them through the change?

Where do HR leaders figure in the survey? I suspect they are too focused on transactional HR to rank highly, just as many CIOs are too focused on keeping the lights on ...